Premier League Preview 2015/16

It’s that time of year again folks! The Premier League season returns with many questions, which will be answered over the coming 38 weeks of gruelling battle.

A few changes over summer but expect controversy along the way! We have further interpretations added to the offside law, which they say should make it easier to understand – we’ll see.

Here is a team-by-team guide on how I feel the season will unfold.

AFC Bournemouth

Last season’s Championship winners were renowned for an open expansive style of play. Stepping up in to the Premier League comes the argument whether to stick to what you know best or to adapt to collect the points you need to survive.

The Cherries won the Championship in stylish fashion scoring 98 goals in the process, so expect goals from the likes of Callum Wilson, Yann Kermorgant and a few spectacular strikes from Harry Arter.

Eddie Howe is a talented young manager and he has proven that during his stints at Dean Court. He has been busy in the off-season adding players that give them a fighting chance to survive.

They have strengthened the goalkeeping role by adding Artur Boruc and Adam Federici. Sylvain Distin comes in on a free transfer with his vast amount of experience, which help this unit. Highly touted full-back Tyrone Mings cost £8 million joined the south coast club along with attacking options in Josh King, Lee Tomlin and Max Gradel. You can’t say they haven’t strengthened the squad!

As only natural for the newly promoted teams adapting takes time. Bournemouth will be in and around the relegation zone early on but they need to remain positive about collecting the points. I fully expect them to survive come May.

Position: 17th

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s men won the FA Cup yet again and then last weekend proved they could be a threat for the title by beating Chelsea to win the Community Shield.

The only signing, so far has been Petr Cech arriving from rivals Chelsea. This will give the Gunners an excellent chance to close the gap. The experienced Czech stopper has been one of the best keepers in the Premier League since joining from Rennes back in 2004.

Jack Wilshere has already been ruled out for a chunk of the season due to a hairline fracture to his right ankle. Again it highlights part of the problem at the club, losing players through injury and not having the depth or mental strength to cope.

The lack of further additions to the squad would be a worry for many Arsenal supporters. From the outside looking in the strike force looks relatively weak with the reliance on Olivier Giroud. A returning Theo Walcott will help that and if they do pull off the signing of Karim Benzema then you would have to take them seriously.

However we know what Arsenal are like and will be there near the top till about January before their campaign peters out for a top four finish and a cup success.

Position: 3rd

Aston Villa

The concern for Aston Villa is the fact they have lost key players in the spine of their team. Out have gone Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke.

Tim Sherwood has been very busy raiding Ligue 1 but the question that lingers is – has he bought in quantity over quality?

One of Villa’s weak links last season was goal scoring. The Villains scored a club record low with only 31 goals. They’ve acquired Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede to replace Benteke to try to find the net. Ayew joins from Lorient where he scored 12 goals while Gestede could prove to be an ideal replacement for the Belgian if he can make the step-up to this league.

Micah Richards has come in and has taken the captains armband. Jordan Amavi has signed from Nice and was highly regarded in the French league last year. The creation of chances is an area Villa were lacking but Jordan Veretout has been touted to sort out that problem.

It’ll take time for them to settle and gel. Sherwood came into the club with a spirit and fight that was lacking under Paul Lambert. In the end it saw Villa survive however this will be a season of struggle.

Position: 18th

Chelsea

Champions Chelsea will be looking to defend their crown. Away from his insults in the direction of various people Jose Mourinho has brought in Asmir Begovic to replace Petr Cech and the much-maligned Falcao to boost their strike force.

There is no shame by the way the Blues ground out or ‘parked the bus’ to pick up results last season while other challengers played the only way they knew how, which albeit proved costly. 17 clean sheets in 2014/15 proved to be a big contributory factor in to how they claimed the silverware and you don’t expect that to change this campaign.

If Diego Costa can remain fit for the whole season then it’s hard to see anyone else getting a look in. Eden Hazard was named Player of the Year last season and rightly so, the Belgian carries no airs and graces. Despite being targeted for some robust treatment Hazard just gets up and carries on unlike others in the league.

The only slight concern, if you can call it that, would be if they were striving for Champions League success, as their main aim. That could leave them vulnerable to taking their eye of the ball in the league.

Position: 1st

Crystal Palace

The Eagles sat in 18th place when Alan Pardew took over in January. The Marmite manager guided them to a tenth place finish picking up many plaudits along the way after he escaped the tortuous experience on Tyneside.

Yohan Cabaye re-joins Alan Pardew in quite an eye-catching signing despite the eye-watering transfer fee paid for the 29-year-old midfielder. With that addition you look at Palace on paper and see a very strong squad. Alex McCarthy coming in could prove a shrewd signing in between the sticks while Connor Wickham and the loan signing of Patrick Bamford is what was required to strengthen a weak frontline.

With the players they already had, Yannick Bolasie and Wilfred Zaha on the wings, James McArthur holding with Cabaye, shows how much depth they have if Mile Jedinak doesn’t start. On top of that they have a strong back four, who occasionally pop up with the odd goal too.

What not is there to like about what Pardew has done at Selhurst Park since his arrival? They are the surprise package of the season for me and could well finish above the likes of Southampton, Stoke and Swansea. A cup run wouldn’t go amiss either.

Position: 7th

Everton

Roberto Martinez had a difficult time during his first season in charge at Goodison Park. An 11th place finish last season isn’t what the Toffees would have been expecting but 12 months on you have to believe they’ll do better.

Look on the bright side Everton fans; you haven’t got the torrid Europa League campaign to deal with. A small squad is part of the problem but finding that balance between Thursday and Sunday fixtures is what the Spaniard found difficult.

Anyway without that the Toffees can concentrate on domestic action and will be looking to regain their position in the top eight. However it is still a worry with the small squad they have. A few injuries or suspensions could leave them exposed.

Notably they have added Tom Cleverley, who did well at Aston Villa in the backend of last season, and Gerard Deulofeu has re-joined after being on-loan at Sevilla last year. That adds some younger blood into an ageing side with Leon Osman, Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry all 32-years-old or older.

A reliance on Romelu Lukaku’s goal scoring could prove Everton’s Achilles heel and if he doesn’t fire then you’re unlikely to see much success. A steady season is expected but they could do with further additions.

Position: 9th

Leicester City

One summer surprise came at the King Power. After guiding the club to unlikely survival after being bottom on New Year’s Day Nigel Pearson was sacked; we must have had our heads buried in the sand – not many expected that!

Pearson’s Foxes collected 22 points from their last 27 available to guarantee their Premier League status for this season. The reason for his exit: “the working relationship was no longer viable.”

In came ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri. The Italian should know his way around the league after being in charge at Chelsea between 2000-2004. However he hasn’t had the greatest of times of late. He was sacked in November from his role as head coach of the Greece national team; a spell that included two defeats to the Faroe Islands.

Looking into team matters then losing Esteban Cambiasso could prove crucial. The Argentinian ran the show on a number of occasions after joining in January. N’Golo Kante has been bought in as a possible replacement. There is money there to be spent. Andrej Kramaric in January and now Shinji Okazaki coming in from Mainz where he had a successful two-year stint in the Bundesliga. The permanent signing of Robert Huth is a very positive one with the way he added some solidity in the back three in the last few months of last year.

With doubts about Ranieri’s capabilities at the helm plus a few about the squad still lingering, a season of struggle is one to expect.

Position: 19th

Liverpool

The Reds finally said goodbye to Steven Gerrard. His farewell is one they’ll all want to forget – a 6-1 drubbing at Stoke; funnily enough that’s where they start their campaign.

During the off-season Brendan Rodgers has bought in some good players and again spent big. Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino cost a combined total of £61.5 million. That should be enough to sort the attack out, as they still yearn for Luis Suarez’s goals.

James Milner could prove to be the shrewdest piece of business but overall Rodgers has failed to address the biggest problem area in the squad – the defence.

Liverpool conceded 48 goals; only Tottenham in the top six breached more. Yet Rodgers has only added right-back Nathaniel Clyne. Martin Skrtel is the likely leader at the back but he needs a partner, as Mamadou Sakho and the costly Dejan Lovren haven’t proved up to the task. On top of that the goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is one that is very inconsistent, which leads to many an anxious moment.

Until Rodgers realises his back four is too weak then Liverpool won’t break into the ‘Top Four.’

Position: 5th

Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini’s men failed to deal with the pressures of defending their crown again yet were Chelsea’s main rivals.

Despite recent history suggesting Man City can bounce back after two previous disappointing title defences I’m not sure they’ll be the main challenger this season.

They only conceded 38 goals last season but when Vincent Kompany missed out through injury they looked shaky and a tad vulnerable. The Belgium international will need to be kept fit for their chances this season, as will top scorer Sergio Aguero, who was kept busy over summer in the Copa America with Argentina.

Raheem Sterling could be a valuable asset and prove his worth. He’ll be a player that should thrive in this sort of team alongside the likes of David Silva, Yaya Touré and Aguero. The 20-year-old may take a few weeks to find his feet at the club but is likely to show why the club paid £44 million for him. When comparing him to Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri, then Sterling should be able to contribute more to the team. The addition of Fabian Delph may be able to solve the defensive midfield conundrum at the club too.

Overall they have strengthened the key areas of defensive midfield and a winger but some of their rivals have also done some good business, which could see them fall a few places.

Position: 4th

Manchester United

Louis van Gaal hasn’t messed about in this transfer window, putting his stamp onto the squad by beefing up the midfield. So far the Dutchman has spent big to get his hands on Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin while further money has been spent bringing Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian in. All four signings make you sit up and take note to the van Gaal revolution.

With those signings the Red Devils should be able to make the most of the possession they have been having by creating more meaningful chances for skipper Wayne Rooney to score.

Away from the signings keeping players fit will be a big part of the season. Injuries to the likes of Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling hampered them last season, as did their poor record on the road where they only won six matches; if those can be sorted then expect Man United to be a force to reckon with, especially if they keep hold of David De Gea.

Position: 2nd

Newcastle United

After an utterly forgettable and miserable end to the season under caretaker manager John Carver the Magpies eventually got hold of Steve McClaren. The former England manager also endured an unhappy ending to the season in charge of Derby, who missed out on the Championship play-offs.

With expectations likely to be lowered Newcastle could see a bit of positive progress this season and finish in the mid-table region, which is likely to be more congested than ever before.

Only three signings so far but they have been eye-catching yet a little expensive. Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic both cost £14.5 million but if they bring their form from PSV and Anderlecht respectively then it is likely to be a good season upon Tyneside. Chancel Mbemba, also joins from Anderlecht, and will partner Fabricio Coloccini.

They’ve got a good squad, which under achieved last season, so expect improvement for this.

Position: 13th

Norwich City

Despite not having the strongest squad in the league I do think the Canaries will survive. Alex Neil came in with 22 games of the season left and guided them to the Premier League, losing just three matches and seeing off rivals Ipswich Town in the process.

It’s hard not to be impressed by what Neil has done in his short time as Norwich boss, on top of what he had already achieved at Hamilton north of the border.

They’ve added wisely to what they already had. Youssouf Mulumbu on a free could prove a really good piece of business. Robbie Brady and Graham Dorrans also come in with Premier League experience, which will only help the squad.

Expect an attacking brand of possession football and with the strike force they have could prove to be dark horses this season. Of the trio of promoted clubs I’m expecting Norwich just to edge it in terms of finishing the highest and surviving.

Position: 16th

Southampton

Everyone had written Southampton off following the exodus before last season. However Ronald Koeman proved most wrong and guided the Saints to seventh place. This season has seen similar in terms of key players leaving but Koeman seems to have invested well.

Jordy Clasie could prove to be a really good replacement for Morgan Schneiderlin and Cedric Soares has impressed the fans since his arrival. You can expect the Saints to continue on their journey of progress and it wouldn’t surprise many if they reached a cup final along the way.

Graziano Pelle hit the ground running in his debut season scoring 12 league goals and with Jay Rodriguez returning from injury they won’t be lacking firepower. Everything is looking rather rosy on the south coast.

One slight concern would be the Europa League campaign. We saw its negative impact on Everton last season but from my viewpoint Southampton have a better squad to cope with the amount of matches and travelling they’ll face.

Position: 8th

Stoke City

Another solid season of improvement in 2014/15 but can Mark Hughes continue in the same vein?

I don’t think so, as this is the first time Stoke have had to deal with losing key players. Losing Player of the Season Steven N’Zonzi to Sevilla and Asmir Begovic to Chelsea could be fundamental in how the Midlands club go this season, especially losing the former. On top of that they could be missing skipper Ryan Shawcross, who has only played 65 minutes of one pre-season game due to a back injury last season that could require surgery – that could see Stoke leak goals.

So far the Potters have added wisely bringing in players such as Marco van Ginkel (loan), Joselu, Ibrahim Afellay and Moha El Ouriachi to strength their attacking options. Defensively, Hughes have acquired Glen Johnson, Philipp Wollscheid and bought in two goalkeepers at the varying end of the spectrum in the vastly experienced Shay Given and Jakob Haugaard. On paper it is good business considering the little outlay compared to others in the league. On top of that they have the returning Bojan.

Overall, Stoke have acquired talent in attacking areas but still look a winger or two short. It is no surprise to see them chasing the likes of Adama Traore, Andriy Yarmolenko and Xherdan Shaqiri – a big statement of intent from the club. If they could pull one of those off then they should be a very attractive proposition to watch. Without Shawcross they are likely to struggle defensively and be softer opposition than usual and if he is ruled out they may want to pursue further cover.

Position: 11th

Sunderland

The Black Cats have been involved in relegation battles for the last couple of seasons now yet I think this year will be different under the wise Dick Advocaat.

As we know Advocaat has plenty of experience and has a calm demeanour, something that can’t be said about managers of the past. The Dutchman has entrusted Jermain Lens to be a key figure in the team, to create and score, which has lacked recently too. His signing is likely to benefit Jermain Defoe, who should have a good season up front, if said chances are created.

Sebastian Coates, Adam Matthews and Younes Kaboul could prove very useful additions to the defence too. After conceding 53 goals last year it is no surprise to see a couple of younger players come through the door to probably replace the likes of Wes Brown and in time John O’Shea.

Discipline was also a problem area last season. In their 38 games Sunderland collected 94 yellow cards, 14 of which were shown to, you know who, Lee Cattermole. If that issue can be sorted out then expect the Wearside club to climb the table.

Position: 12th

Swansea City

The Swans captured the imagination of many last year with their eighth place finish and free flowing football under Garry Monk. After losing Wilfried Bony in January it was hard to see them maintaining their position but they did.

Lukas Fabianski had a very good season in goal and at the other end different players popped up on the scoring front. Playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bafetimbi Gomis both scored seven but it was Ki-Sung Yeung outscored them both with eight. However the South Korean finished the season sitting on the bench and could start the season there, showing how competitive it is in this team.

Andre Ayew has joined on a free transfer, which could be a very good signing, as he’ll be a livewire and create plenty of opportunities for his teammates and himself.

Another steady season should be expected at the Liberty but this year is likely to be tougher.

Position: 10th

Tottenham Hotspur

Where do you start with Tottenham? For me they are a similar proposition to Liverpool. They have strength in attacking areas but lack in defensive areas.

Many Spurs fans will be happy to see the back of Vlad Chiriches, who struggled in the Premier League, while it wasn’t any better watching Federico Fazio in his debut season either.

The signing of Toby Alderweireld is one that should solve part of the defensive nightmares but they’ll need to keep Jan Vertonghen fit too. Kieran Trippier has also come in and deserves his chance at this sort of level. You wouldn’t be surprised to see him replace the inconsistent Kyle Walker.

It will be essential for their chances of doing well this season that Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen can repeat the form they showed last season, as the pair showed 31 goals between them; 21 of them from Kane. However that reliance and pressure on both to shine would be a worry, especially if one picked up a long-term injury. It is unlikely Kane will be able to replicate that sort of goal scoring feat this year and that is an area the Lilywhites look weak.

Mauricio Pochettino will have been doing plenty of defensive work on the training ground considering Tottenham conceded more goals than Hull City, who were relegated. That’s the obvious weak point that looks to have been resolved. But they could do with a back-up option in case Kane fails to it the ground running. With Emmanuel Adebayor rumoured to be leaving, you need more back-up than Roberto Soldado, who managed just the one solitary goal last year.

Position: 6th

Watford

New boys Watford have more of an unknown about them with the amount of new signings they have made. Last season they got through four managers on their way to promotion and despite Slaviša Jokanovic finishing second he was shown the exit door too.

Quique Sanchez Flores takes the reigns and has plenty of experience after his time in charge of Valencia, Benfica and Atletico Madrid along the way.

The Spaniard has come in and already made ten new signings. It is a risk bringing in that many faces – it is something that could go horribly wrong or prove a masterstroke if they gel quickly. Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami are likely to give the Hornets some solidity in midfield while Jose Jurado and Steven Berghuis are the one’s to create the sting for the potent Troy Deeney.

On paper they have the potential to excite and have plenty of talent going forward. What remains to be seen is how long it will take for them to gel as a group and before we see the best from them. If things aren’t going their way then what sort of attitude and fight will they show are other things worth considering.

If they are struggling then don’t be surprised to see the Pozzo family continue their ruthless trend of sacking managers and that could be a downfall.

Position: 20th

West Bromwich Albion

The talk of new owners has been a key feature of Albion’s pre-season but the potential takeover fell by the wayside due to a crash of the Far East stock market. If new owners can be found would they be willing to flash the cash as Tony Pulis likes to do or will they look for a more modern type of manager?

You know what you’re going to get from the Baggies this season with Pulis at the helm. Solid at the back where he is unlikely to play full-backs; the signing of James Chester should work well, despite the price tag attached.

The addition of Rickie Lambert is a very good one. He’ll hold the ball up and bring others around him into play. Plus they’ll be strong from set pieces something Lambert will relish. If playing alongside Saido Berahino then it will take some of the goal scoring pressure off the 22-year-old. With that sort of partnership you can expect to see a fair few goals being scored.

The Hawthorns is where they will pick up the majority of the points and it won’t make pretty viewing when they are on the road. It will be a steady enough season but one where they could get dragged into a little relegation battle, for which they should have enough to survive.

Position: 15th

 

West Ham United

The fans wanted rid of ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce and they finally got their wish; allegedly minutes after the final game of last season. Despite it being the change I can’t see things being much better.

Former Hammer Slaven Bilic has been appointed but it is fair to say he has had a tricky start to his role. The club qualified for the Europa League through the ‘Fair Play’ league. So far they nearly have been knocked out against Maltese side Birkirkara, but scraped through on penalties. Discipline has been a problem, as they have already seen three red cards!

Away from the Europa League the club have brought in quality through the spine of the squad with the likes of Dimitri Payet, Pedro Obiang and Angelo Ogbonna to compliment what was already there. That could bring the change of style the fans have craved for.

However the current early excursions in the Europa League could see burn out take effect in similar fashion to the way they fizzled out after Christmas last season.

In May comes the end of a 111-year association with the Boleyn Ground as the Hammers vacate and move into the Olympic Stadium.

Position: 14th

Bets Bets for the season

Chelsea to win the league: 7/4

Aston Villa to be relegated: 3/1

Wayne Rooney top goalscorer: 12/1

Next manager to leave: Slaven Bilic 10/1

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